HAVING instituted organization among Perfectionists at Putney, Noyes in the winter of 1840 - 41 published in The Witness a series of articles on organization, and called for an expression of opinion. The two responses subjoined are typical. Afterward a number of conventions were held in different parts of the country with the purpose of bringing Perfectionists everywhere into closer relations.
SAMUEL S. GIBBS TO NOYES
Manlius, New York, January 11, 1841.
To John H. Noyes:
As for your organization I cannot agree with you. It is taking the same ground that all the reformers have, viz., all the rest of the organizations are wrong, now we will have a right one. But they soon find theirs no better than the rest. . . . If we are inhabitants of that kingdom which is not of this world, we have all the laws, organizations and social relations that we need. By saying this I do not advocate disorder, nor throw away secondary means. Such persons are in God's divine order. They will do by others as they would be done by; they will be willing to receive spiritual instruction from a little child, or through any source that God sees fit to use, but they cannot receive anything unless it commends itself to their understanding...
Again, you set yourself up as the head of this dispensation,
and refuse to fellowship as Christians any that do not acknowledge you as such. This looks like exalting self. If you are the head of the church, 1 do not belong to that church. You take a step beyond Wesley and other reformers. They were not willing to receive that degree of honor men were disposed to give them, but you receive all the honor men will give you and seek more. Jesus saith, "I receive not honor from men; how can ye believe which receive honor one of another."
These are my honest views, which I send you in love. . Yours etc.,
SAMUEL S. GIBBS.
WILLIAM C. GOULD TO GEORGE CRAGIN
Newark, New Jersey, May 17, 1841.
In January last you invited me to give you my views on church organization. In answer I spoke doubtfully of the expediency of organization among Perfectionists. I must acknowledge that I felt an objection to your proposed plan at Putney as I understood it. From a perusal of a recent number of The Witness I am induced to believe that I have been altogether misinformed. . . . Within the last three weeks some of us in this place have succeeded in organizing somewhat upon the plan of the brethren at Putney .
I think the promulgation of your proceedings in Putney will be of service elsewhere, as I suspect it has been with us, in overcoming opposition to organization. This opposition has certainly been very strong, Most Perfectionists regard Organization as the most potent agent in perpetuating legal servitude.
Whatever may be said about the legal tendency of organization under the old covenant, I insist that it remains to be
proved whether this tendency cannot be overcome by believers standing in the experience and knowledge of the new covenant.
I wish you to say to Brother Noyes, that in the matter of securing united action through organization, however others may feel, I am fully with him so far as I understand him; and I trust that he will not suffer any intimations about his aiming at supremacy to interrupt his efforts toward this object.
Yours in Christ,
W. C. GOULD.
NOYES TO WILLIAM C. GOULD
Putney, March 16, 1842.
Dear Brother Gould:
When Brother Cragin wrote you, we thought that a convention for the purpose of agreeing on doctrine and instituting organization would be premature. And further for several reasons in the present state of things I should prefer some other place for such a convention than Newark. One of those reasons is that I am not desirous of meeting in such a glare of publicity as would attend a city convention, especially at the period of the great anniversaries. The object I, for one, have in view is not so much to operate directly on the public (which is the object of the anniversaries) as to operate on ourselves. Our convention should be like a marriage, not like an exhibition. I know that tastes differ. Some would have a great public wedding party. But I should prefer a private (not secret) wedding, especially where the parents and relatives are not very friendly to the match. I think we might come together at Putney, or some such country place where Perfectionism is in the ascendant, and lay our foundations of social order in quietness with-
1. The reference here is to the conventions of the clergy, which at this time were held annually in New York City.-G. W. N.
out provoking the ridicule and animosity of the dogs and swine that rule the press and public opinion.
Another reason is this: I apprehend that with a few exceptions the Perfectionists of Newark are yet halting between two opinions about the legitimacy of organization under the gospel If this is the case, our convention would be rather for disputation than for friendly discussion.
This leads me to remark that I have no objection to a convention for discussion at Newark during anniversary week. Such a convention may prepare the way for after-proceedings. I think it is needed and, if the Lord will, I shall attend.
Yours in love and esteem,
JOHN H. NOYES.
A convention of Perfectionists was held at Newark, New Jersey, May 12-14, 1842. F. B. Cunningham was appointed Moderator and J. H. Noyes Secretary. The Moderator after some remarks on the general objects of the meeting proposed that topics for discussion be suggested. Thereupon eight leading questions were presented. As it was evidently impossible to discuss all, it was thought best to take up the most important first and proceed as far as time would allow.
Whether believers were in any sense under law was selected as the first subject of deliberation. Some difference of opinion appeared at first, but "brotherly love prevailed," and in the end unanimity on this subject was obtained.
Next the subject of the second coming of Christ came before the Convention, and the discussion was long and spirited. The subject of baptism was also introduced. As there was however some discrepancy of sentiment in both of these topics it was thought best to leave them, with the other subjects proposed but not discussed, to the deliberations of future conventions.
RESOLUTIONS PASSED AT THE NEWARK CONVENTION
MAY 13, 1842
1. In saying that we are not under law we mean that the influence which restrains us from violating the principles of love proceeds not from the law but from the spirit.
2. While all the statutes of the Jewish law were abolished in Christ,
yet all that is essential in them will remain in full force forever as
a law of nature and reason.
3. Christians in the incipient state need instruction, exhortation and command.
4. All who live in sin are still under the law.
5. We disclaim the principles and detest the practices of those who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.
ELI WADSWORTH TO NOYES
July 16, 1843.
In a conversation with Mrs. Lyvere and E. B. Cunningham they told me that the Association at Putney was a complete monarchy, and that you were acting the part of a tyrant. Prindle told me the same, when he came back here, and he charged upon you the crimes of spiritual tyranny worse than ever you charged upon Latourette.
NOYES TO ELI WADSWORTH
August 3, 1843.
I have no doubt I shall be a sore trial to the "liberty men."
I have formed my notions of organization not from the doctrines of antislavery nor of American democracy, but from the Bible. I believe that the law is for the lawless, and that where the law is abolished God governs spiritually.
WILLIAM C. GOULD TO NOYES
FALL OF 1843
G. C. Stewart on his return from a tour west handed me a copy of the Lyvere-Edson resolution. It put all the Newark
Perfectionists on the fence, and the lovers of confusion in control for the time being. . . . No objection was felt against your expelling Lyvere and wife from your house and family, but the grand difficulty was that the Society had expelled them from the church, and in so doing had assigned as their reason not that they had walked contrary to Scripture and sinned against God, but that they had done certain things which were contrary to the known will of John H. Noyes. I could not deny that the resolution needed some explanation. The sequel of the whole matter is that an apprehension of your desire for spiritual domination has again been aroused, and stands in the way of your usefulness and the circulation of the paper.
A convention of Perfectionists was held at Manlius Center, New York, May 4-5, 1844. The call was signed by William H. Cook, M. L. Worden and others, and was published in The Perfectionist. Alexander Wilder acted as Secretary. Resolutions were passed exalting Christ and the Bible, condemning lawlessness, and expressing distrust of the popular reforms of the day because not based on Christ. William H. Cook in a letter to Noyes May 10th stated that a resolution was proposed adopting The Perfectionist as the organ of the fraternity, but owing mainly to the opposition of one man was laid on the table. Cook praised The Perfectionist in somewhat qualified terms, but did not sympathize with Noyes's total rejection of Boyle. In doctrine, Cook said, the New York Perfectionists stood on the same ground as the Putney brethren.
It appears from Harriet A. Noyes's journal and Cook's letter that Noyes was prevented from attending this Convention by an attack of severe headache and fever. He commended the meeting however in The Perfectionist as "wholesome," and suggested that Perfectionists in other parts of the country define their position in a similar manner.
Another convention was held at Belchertown, Massachusetts, October 6-8, 1844. It met in response to a general invitation. Resolutions were discussed and unanimously adopted substantially as follows:
That we regard with deep interest the realization of an external as well as internal union of believers.
That, inasmuch as none but those who are saved from sin are qualified for external union, we will make the salvation of ourselves and others from sin our first endeavor, and will attempt no radical changes in society until we are sure of a sufficient number of faithful men.
That, since the Kingdom of God has already commenced in the heavens, we will neither join nor form any Association that cannot be proved to be a branch of that Kingdom, or that has not ascertained and does not follow the institutions of that Kingdom in regard to marriage and property.
A "Theocratic Conference" convened at Lairdsville, New York, November 15-17, 1844. The call, a brief printed slip, was signed by John B. Foot, Charles Lovett, Alexander Wilder, William S. Hatch, David A. Warren and David Wilder. The Putney Perfectionists were ignored, and none of them attended.
Isaac Seymour of Westmoreland was called to the Chair, and Alexantler Wilder was appointed Secretary.
Resolutions were reported by John B. Foot, that "Jesus Christ now claims the immediate government of the world," and that "the saints should at once assert their rights, renounce allegiance to all human dominions, and take the kingdom."
A "Declaration of Independence from the nations of the earth" was reported by David Wilder.
The Resolutions and the Declaration were discussed and adopted, three of the delegates declining to vote.
Immediately after this Conference Alexander Wilder went to Belchertown and attacked some of the fundamental doctrines of Perfectionism. Thus began a new controversy, in which many who opposed Noyes's leadership were split off from the Perfectionist church.
A call for a convention of Perfectionists at East Hamilton, New York, July 10, 1845, was published in The Perfectionist~ and was signed by William S. Hatch, Charles Lovett, Joseph C. Ackley, Daniel P. Nash and Seymour W. Nash. Perfectionsts from New
England were specially invited to attend. Accordingly Noyes wrote to Cragin, who was in Northern Vermont, suggesting that he and Buruham attend the Convention. Cragin received Noyes's letter only five days before the Convention was to meet. He immediately turned over his team to Burnham, who was anxious to take counsel with Noyes at Putney, and traveled himself by stage to East Hamilton. There be met Noyes's brother George, whom Noyes had sent with a letter to the Convention.
GEORGE W. NOYES TO HARRIET H. SKINNER
Oneida Depot, Madison Co., New York, July 15, 1845.
We are now at the house of William C. Gould, who is confined to his bed in consequence of breaking his leg .
The Convention commenced its sittings Thursday afternoon and continued them till Sunday afternoon. The number of brethren in attendance was not large. From abroad there were Charles Lovett and wife, Reuben Palmer of Brookfield, John B. Foot and wife of Clinton, Mrs. David A. Warren of Verona, John Abbott of Pulaski, Seymour Nash of Jefferson County, and J. Jefferies of Whitesboro Institute. Most of the time was occupied in testimony, exhortation and discussion by believers. The meeting on Sunday was held in a beautiful grove, and was principally addressed to unbelievers. .
I like the democracy among Perfectionists in this region better than 1 expected. They need however a chief in whom they can have common confidence and under whom they can act in unison. I think they are mostly prepared to admit this themselves.
You may have a curiosity to know more particularly about some who have gained renown in the past. William S. Hatch is firm in his faith, consistent in his morals, fervent in spirit,
rambling in his ideas, consequently eccentric. I cannot help loving him, and it is a treat to hear him speak on account of his originality and vehemence. He greatly needs New England coolness and discipline of mind, that he may have weight in Society. John B. Foot is a clear-headed, conscientious man, but is under a spirit of legality which presses him down toward Methodism. Mrs. Foot is nearly with him. Jefferies is strong in the testimony of sanctification, but on other matters is wholly in the dark. In the religion of Mrs. David A. Warren I have but little confidence. She is a great talker, took a conspicuous part in the Convention, and tells of stupendous experiences, but she does not receive the security. .
I was interrupted in my writing last night by a call from Erasmus Stone and wife, who live next door to Mr. Gould. They stayed until eleven o'clock. He was polite and communicative, and stated frankly his objections to John's course, but did not attend the Convention.
We have visited none outside of Hamilton and Brookfield except Brother Gould. He appears sound and reasonable as ever.
GEORGE W. NOYES.
GEORGE CRAGIN TO NOYES
Syracuse, New York, July 18, 1845.
Dear Brother Noyes:
The communication addressed to the Convention by yourself was read by Brother Hatch. It was listened to with deep interest, and a motion that it be published in The Perfectionist was unanimously carried. . .
The Lord is manifestly preparing the way for a union between the east and the west. The only skirmish I have had was with John Abbott. He was drunk with the New York spirit. When we first met he said: "I am the representative of New York Perfectionists. You are the representative of New England Perfectionists." If he spoke the truth, New York Perfectionism is dead, for he soon fell under my spirit. At the meeting on the first day he did not open his head, and the next morning, after retracting some things he had said and inviting us to come and see him, he left the Convention
These leading Perfectionists are not half so powerful as I expected to find them. . . . I keep my eye on a future harvest more than a present one. I know by the grace of God we shall be able to destroy their prejudice and compel them to love us, I was going to say against their will. Brother Hatch said during the meeting, "I love Brother Cragin more than I meaut to;" and you know that they cannot help loving George.
NOYES TO THE CONVENTION OF PERFECTIONISTS AT EAST
HAMILTON, NEW YORK, JULY 10, 1845
As I am prevented from meeting with you in person I will place at your disposal a contribution to the deliberations of the Convention in writing. My attention has been turned of late to the symptoms of advancing conviction on the subject of holiness which are manifesting themselves in the churches, and I see much occasion for rejoicing and hope. . . . Charles G. Finney, the center of the revival spirit, was first affected and compelled to take an ad-
vanced position. He drew after him a large body of influential followers and a theological seminary. Now Dr. Beecher, the leader that stands next after Finney in spiritual power, has submitted partially to the truth; and he too draws after him a large body of influential followers and a theological seminary. .
I am well aware that Finney and Beecher have not come into line with us and with the Primitive Church on the high ground of the new covenant. Their advance is but half way; but my hope and expectation are that the work of conviction will go forward to conversion.
Let us now ask ourselves, brethren, what line of conduct is marked out for us. I will briefly give niy judgment on this question. In the first place I think we ought to feel that the post assigned to us is that of the body-guard of the gospel. We must stand firm for perfect freedom from sin, for security, and for confession. These are the essentials of the new covenant. If we steadfastly abide by the gospel which proclaims these victories of faith, the masses that have begun to move will surely come to it at last.
In the next place we must purge our own ranks of semi-Perfectionism. 1 have seen many indications within the last year, that there is a class bearing the name of Perfectionists, claiming fellowship among us and even assuming to be inspired leaders and teachers, who exert their influence more or less openly and directly against justification, security and confession of salvation from sin. Such men have no right to a place among us. They are not with us in spirit, but with the half-converted masses that are moving toward us. Let us draw the line between them and us, that we may fully discharge our responsibilities as God's banner-guard in the coming conflict.
Finally it behooves us to take away all stumbling-blocks from the path of those who are approaching the gospel; to put away
childish things; to frown on disorder, fanaticism and licentiousness; to give place among us as fast as possible to the order and discipline of the Primitive Church.
JOHN H. NOYES.
Chapter 11: Noyes's Conflicts with his Father and Mother | Contents